For the full feature, visit the June 21, 2019 edition of Iowa Now.

"Over a period of about 10 years from 2006 to 2015, the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the atmosphere was in significant decline. Stricter regulations on vehicle emissions, the most common source of nitrogen dioxide, led to year-over-year reductions in the amount of pollution in the air. However, in the past several years, scientists noticed in 2017 something odd — while the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere was not increasing, levels were not decreasing as much as they had in the previous decade.

That is why engineers at the University of Iowa and the University of Colorado at Boulder are partnering on a three-year, $565,000 grant from NASA to use satellite images processed by high-performance computing to determine why the nitrogen dioxide declines seem to have leveled off. The team will use data collected from multi-sensors aboard NASA’s Aura satellite and Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite as well as European’s TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) satellite."

Per UI3's Jun Wang:

“There are a number of new energy production methods, such as fracking, that could contribute to nitrogen dioxide emissions,” says Jun Wang, a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the UI and principal investigator on the project. “While we continue to work to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from vehicles, it is possible that those reductions are being offset by other new sources.”